Combustible Celluloid
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With: Deborah Kerr, Peter Wyngarde, Megs Jenkins, Michael Redgrave, Martin Stephens, Pamela Franklin, Clytie Jessop, Isla Cameron, Eric Woodburn
Written by: William Archibald, Truman Capote, based on a novel by Henry James
Directed by: Jack Clayton
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 100
Date: 11/01/1961

The Innocents (1961)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Nooks and Nannies

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Truman Capote and William Archibald adapted Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw" and turned it into one of the most memorably chilling horror films of the 20th century. It has the flavor of one of those polite British studio productions, with many hands contributing to the final product, but Jack Clayton's direction and the gorgeous, widescreen, black-and-white cinematography by Freddie Francis help make it a one of a kind film (though it is almost always paired on a double-bill with Robert Wise's The Haunting). Deborah Kerr stars Miss Giddens, a preacher's daughter who takes a job as a nanny for two kids in a remote mansion. (Their uncle is a busy, swinging single and has no time for kids.) Miss Giddens meets Flora (Pamela Franklin) and everything is fine, but then the other child, Miles (Martin Stephens) comes home early from school, having been expelled. Miss Giddens begins to experience strange things, seeing specters and noticing odd behavior in the children. She concludes that two dead servants (illicit lovers) are possessing the children, and she decides to do something about it. The film makes remarkable use of drastic spaces, both interior and exterior as well as terrifying soundtrack noise. It hasn't lost a bit of its effectiveness over the years and remains a must-see for horror fans. If you listen carefully, you can hear Capote's witty pen at work, probably in much of Miles' dialogue, and definitely in some of the uncle's dialogue.

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